A Rosh Hashanah surprise

I’ve received a surprise Rosh Hashanah gift: a film of my oldest granddaughter’s 10th birthday! Someone once told me that you can never go back to where you haven’t been. But I can certainly go back to this, because I was actually at the party and am part of the “cast.”

Someone also told me, once, somewhat jokingly but really not, that parents love all their children the most, but the first one is the best. That’s because nothing the next ones do is new to you; you’ve been there already: the first sleeping through the night…the first tooth…the first word…the first…well, you get the picture. I watched Lena with awe, because the first grandchild is for grandparents much as their own first child was: Everything old becomes brand-new again in the next generation. 

I have five grandchildren. My son is the father of three girls, and my daughter is the mother of two boys. They kid me, my children, that even if I lose my memory as I age, I will probably always be able to remember that it was my boy who had the girls, and my daughter who had the boys. 

I have many fond memories of Lena, and this party was one of them. But the best — the one that tops my list — is of the day when she 4 years old, and together we met her twin sisters for the first time. My son and daughter-in-law had just brought them home from the hospital, and there was a lot of “stuff” going on. Passing time made it easy in later months and years to tell that Shoshana and Nachama were fraternal twins, not identical, but as newborns, there were no visible differences. I didn’t know how Lena would react as she began to realize that she was no longer the center of family attention, but to keep that from being so very obvious at the moment, I decided to take her for a walk. We both bundled up in proper outerwear for an early January day in Pittsburgh and we left on our little adventure. Which, of course, turned out to be more of an endurance test for me…

Up the street we went, and since we were experiencing a brief time of unusually warm weather, many people were outside, sitting on their porches, just enjoying the fresh air. And Lena wanted to climb up every set of steps, get onto every porch, and tell the relaxing residents that she had twin sisters! And she did exactly that — house after house after house, for two long blocks before we reached a major intersection. I remember that some of those people asked her questions, and she was happy to give them answers — always more and longer than they’d anticipated. 

The houses on that street are very close together, so there were a lot of stops to make. Lena bounced ahead after leaving each one, starting to climb up to the next while Grandma dragged behind. And of course I was ready to pack it all in and go back home before she was. My honest memory, after all the 34 years that have passed since then, is of the longest, most exhausting, most tiring afternoon in my entire life up to that point. And — truth told — nothing has exceeded it since. Nothing has even come close!

Lena is now the mother of a second-grade son and a most devoted aunt to his cousin, the child of one of her twin sisters. Those two little boys are my great-grandsons! I realize how lucky I am when I think, with real sadness, that my mother never had my opportunities, that Lena — of all of my five grandchildren — was the only one she was able to meet before her own life ended; she had left us forever before the twins were born. But she lives on forever in one of them: Shoshana — Rose — is her namesake. 

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